Trump expected in court next week to watch Michael Cohen testify in New York fraud trial

Donald Trump is reportedly planning to be back in court in New York next week to watch his former lawyer Michael Cohen testify in the civil fraud trial against him. Judge Aileen Cannon chastises federal prosecutors for “wasting the court’s time” while postponing a conflict-of-interest hearing for Walt Nauta, Trump’s valet and co-defendant in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

New York financial Fraud

Trump plans to watch former lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony

Key players: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Trump is planning to return to the New York City courtroom where he and his company are being tried for fraud to watch the testimony of his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, according to NBC News and the Associated Press.

  • Cohen is slated to take the stand on Tuesday, and his testimony is expected to last two days, during which time his former boss is expected to be watching from the audience.

  • In testimony given before Congress in 2019, Cohen alleged that, as a businessman, Trump “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes” and “deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

  • In 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for what a federal judge called a “veritable smorgasbord” of criminal activity at the former president’s behest, including lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia and making secret payments to women who said they’d had affairs with Trump.

  • Cohen is also expected to be a key witness in the criminal case brought against Trump by the Manhattan district attorney’s office for hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Why it matters: James has said that Cohen’s 2019 congressional testimony is what prompted the investigation resulting in the $250 million lawsuit against Trump and his business. Cohen, once Trump’s loyal foot soldier, told NBC News that “it’s been five years” since he has seen his former boss. It is set to be a dramatic moment.

Classified documents

Judge chastises prosecutors for “wasting the court’s time” before postponing conflict-of-interest hearing

Key players: Judge Aileen Cannon, special counsel Jack Smith, Trump valet Walt Nauta, Nauta lawyer Stanley Woodward, Mar-a-Lago IT worker Yuscil Taveras

  • Cannon, a Trump appointee, reprimanded prosecutors on Smith’s team for “wasting the court’s time” Thursday by raising new questions without first submitting them in filings ahead of the hearing, Politico reported.

  • The judge had been set to hear federal prosecutors’ conflict-of-interest claim against Woodward, who had previously represented seven of the witnesses in the investigation, including three who are expected to testify. Thursday’s hearing was intended to help Nauta understand the potential conflicts that could emerge for his attorney during the trial and decide whether he still wants Woodward to represent him.

  • Nauta faces felony charges of conspiring with Trump to obstruct the investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents and deleting surveillance footage sought by authorities.

  • Cannon reportedly became angry when an attorney on Smith’s team asked her to consider prohibiting Woodward from cross-examining Mar-a-Lago IT worker Yuscil Taveras, referred to by prosecutors as “Trump Employee 4,” a former client of Woodward’s.

  • According to prosecutors, Taveras had told a grand jury in Washington, D.C., that he didn’t know of any effort to delete security footage at Mar-a-Lago. Taveras later recanted this earlier testimony after switching his attorney from Woodward to a public defender.

  • Woodward argued that the prosecutors should have raised their additional concerns in court filings prior to the hearing so he could discuss them with his client Nauta. Cannon agreed and ultimately decided to postpone the conflict-of-interest hearing.

Why it matters: Postponing the hearing could mean the documents trial, which is currently scheduled to begin on May 20, 2024, could be further delayed. This would be good news for Trump, whose attorneys have sought to push back the trial date until after the 2024 election.

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Thursday, Oct. 12

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Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Alex Kent/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Christian Monterrosa/AFP via Getty Images, Getty Images (3).

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis offers another harsh rebuke of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, who has launched an investigation into her indictment of former President Donald Trump, and Judge Aileen Cannon hears arguments to decide conflict of interest claims for the lawyers representing Trump’s co-defendants in the classified documents case.

Georgia election interference

Willis to Jordan: ‘You are abusing your authority’

Key players: Fulton County DA Fani Willis, House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan

  • In a scathing response to Jordan’s request for documents detailing her investigation and indictment of Trump, Willis reiterated her reasons for refusing to do so, the Daily Beast reported.

  • “A charitable explanation of your correspondence is that you are ignorant of the United States and Georgia Constitutions and codes,” Willis wrote. “A more troubling explanation is that you are abusing your authority as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to attempt to obstruct and interfere with a Georgia criminal prosecution.”

  • In a letter to Willis requesting documents, Jordan accused her of targeting “federal officials for political reasons.”

  • Jordan is a close political ally of Trump, who last week endorsed him to become the next speaker of the House.

  • The House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into Willis in August on the same day Trump was booked at Fulton County Jail in Atlanta for 13 felony counts stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Why it matters: As Judiciary Committee chairman, Jordan has launched investigations of all those who have investigated and brought criminal charges against Trump. Willis contends Jordan has no legal authority to compel her cooperation.

Classified documents

Judge hears arguments on conflict of interest claim for lawyers of Trump co-defendants

Key players: Judge Aileen Cannon, special counsel Jack Smith, Trump valet Walt Nauta, Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, Nauta lawyer Stanley Woodward, De Oliveira lawyers John Irving and Donnie Murrell

  • Cannon heard arguments Thursday on potential conflict of interest claims brought by lawyers on Smith’s team, USA Today reported.

  • Prosecutors have charged Trump, Nauta and De Olivera with mishandling classified documents and attempting to obstruct the recovery of them by the federal government. In a previous filing to Cannon, Smith lawyers said that Woodward and Irving represented several witnesses who may testify during the trial, putting them in “the position of cross-examining past or current clients.”

  • Woodward, who represented seven of the people questioned in the investigation, including three who will be called to testify, told prosecutors that he had alerted his clients to potential conflicts of interest, but did not think there were any.

  • Murrell also denied that Irving’s past representation of those questioned by Smith’s team presented a conflict. “Here, the Government seeks a hearing based on only what it believes is a potential for a conflict, and not any actual conflict,” he wrote in a filing.

Why it matters: Lawyers on Smith’s team want to make sure that confidential information lawyers for Nauta and De Oliveira may have learned from other Trump employees is not used in a way to obscure the truth during the trial. If she rules there are conflicts, the defendants could need to find new lawyers.

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Wednesday, Oct. 11

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Judge Arthur Engoron

Judge Arthur Engoron. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Getty Images)

Judge Arthur Engoron explains in court why Donald Trump isn’t entitled to a jury trial in his $250 million New York civil lawsuit. And a lawyer for right-wing media personality Alex Jones says the notorious conspiracy theorist will plead the Fifth if he is forced to testify in the Georgia election interference case.

New York financial fraud

Judge clarifies why Trump did not get a jury trial

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump lawyer Alina Habba

  • On the seventh day of Trump’s $250 million civil trial to decide what punishment he, his adult sons and family business must pay after being found liable for years of financial fraud, Engoron addressed a persistent rumor that there was no jury in the case because Trump’s lawyers forgot to check a box on a form requesting one, ABC News reported.

  • “We are having a non-jury trial because we are hearing a non-jury case,” Engoron said, adding, “It would have not helped to make a motion. Nobody forgot to check off a box.”

  • But Engoron also noted that James had requested the trial be decided by him, and that Trump’s lawyers did not request a jury.

  • “The AG checked off non-jury, and there was no motion for a jury,” the judge said, adding that if Trump’s lawyers had made a request for one, he would have rejected it anyway because James sought “equitable relief,” the return of profits illegally obtained, that, under New York’s constitution, precludes a jury trial.

  • Trump has often complained in social media posts that Engoron, who ruled Trump was liable for fraud, is biased against him, adding that he was denied a jury trial.

  • After Engoron clarified why Trump was not entitled to a jury, Habba said, “I would like to say thank you, your honor.”

Why it matters: Trump’s lawyers have appealed Engoron’s rulings, sought to have him recuse himself and have unsuccessfully tried to delay the trial and have it dismissed outright. Whatever the judge’s final ruling on penalties, Trump’s lawyers are certain to appeal it and could try to challenge Engoron’s assertion that a jury trial was not required.

Georgia election interference

Alex Jones to fight being called as witness

Key players: Far-right media personality Alex Jones, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, Jones lawyer Norm Pattis

  • In response to a court filing Tuesday from Willis saying Jones would be called as a witness in the trial of Chesebro and Sidney Powell — the first of 19 defendants to be tried for their attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia — Jones’s lawyer said he would plead the Fifth Amendment if forced to testify, Politico reported.

  • “We’re not going to help Fani’s fantasy life come true any more than we did that of the J6 committee,” Pattis said.

  • In her filing, Willis said Chesebro, who is credited with helping craft Trump’s legal strategy for contesting the election, had contact with Jones that is relevant to the plot to overturn the election.

  • “[Jones] possesses unique knowledge concerning communications between himself and Kenneth Chesebro and other known and unknown individuals involved in the multi-state, coordinated efforts to influence the results of the November 3, 2020, election in Georgia and elsewhere,” Willis wrote.

  • On Jan. 6, 2021, Chesebro was captured on video walking with Jones in a restricted area on the Capitol grounds.

  • In 2022, Jones was ordered to pay $956 million to the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, which Jones falsely claimed had been staged.

Why it matters: Even if Jones pleads the Fifth, establishing a conspiracy theorist’s ties to Chesebro could make an impression on the jury.

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Tuesday, Oct. 10

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Photo illustration.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images(2), Getty Images (2).

Allen Weisselberg, the former CFO of the Trump Organization, testifies that the former president gave false information on bank and insurance forms about the size of his Manhattan penthouse apartment. Lawyers on Jack Smith’s team ask the judge in the election interference case to make Trump reveal his defense strategy and seek to keep the identity of jurors secret.

New York financial fraud

Weisselberg concedes Trump inflated size of his Trump Tower penthouse on financial forms

Key players: Former Trump Org. chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • Weisselberg took the stand Tuesday in day six of the $250 million financial fraud trial of Trump, his adult sons and their family business and testified that Trump had grossly exaggerated the size of his penthouse apartment on financial statements made to banks and insurers, the Associated Press reported.

  • In October of 1994, Trump signed a document certifying the triplex apartment was 10,996 square feet. In 2012, however, he listed the apartment at 30,000 square feet, prosecutors said.

  • “I never even thought about the apartment,” Weisselberg testified, adding, “It was not something that was that important to me when looking at a $6 billion, $5 billion net worth.”

  • But after being admonished by Engoron, Weisselberg, who served 100 days in prison on tax evasion charges from his time working for Trump, eventually conceded that the actual square footage of the triplex was 10,996.

Why it matters: Engoron has already ruled Trump is liable for years of financial fraud carried out in New York. In court, James is building her case that that fraud was systemic and calculated. The case will decide the amount of money the defendants will have to pay as punishment, as well as the limits to their ability to conduct future business in the state.

Jan. 6 election interference

Prosecutors ask judge to compel Trump to reveal his defense strategy in Jan. 6 case

Key players: DOJ special counsel Jack Smith, Judge Tanya Chutkan, Trump lawyer John Lauro

  • Lawyers on Smith’s team submitted a 14-page court filing Tuesday requesting Chutkan require Trump to declare whether he intends to put forth an “advice-of-counsel” defense when the case goes to trial, Politico reported.

  • That defense states that Trump was simply acting on the advice of his lawyers when he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

  • In the filing, prosecutors said that if Trump uses that defense at trial, it would allow them to seek additional testimony from 25 witnesses — including members of Trump’s family — who “withheld information, communications, and documents based on assertions of attorney-client privilege” with Trump.

  • Using that defense would invalidate claims of attorney-client privilege, according to the prosecution’s filing.

  • Smith’s team asked Chutkan to issue a ruling so that Trump’s lawyers would be forced to file notice of their intent to use the “advice-of-counsel” defense by Dec. 18, allowing them time to conduct further investigations without delaying the March 4 start of the trial.

Why it matters: Lauro has indicated several times that Trump will mount a defense that states the former president was guided by the advice of his lawyers when contesting the 2020 election results. Smith is intent on keeping the trial on schedule. Trump has asked the judge to dismiss the case altogether.

Smith’s team asks judge to keep identity of jurors secret

Key players: special counsel Jack Smith, Judge Tanya Chutkan, Judge Arthur Engoron

  • In a separate court filing Tuesday, lawyers on Smith’s team asked Chutkan to conceal the identity of prospective jurors in Trump’s forthcoming trial stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the Hill reported.

  • In the filing prosecutors cited “the defendant’s record of using social media to attack others,” such as his recent attack on social media of Engoron’s clerk in the New York civil fraud case.

  • “The parties should also be precluded from any form of investigation — whether online or otherwise — that could reasonably be perceived as vexatious or harassing,” prosecutors added.

  • Lawyers on Smith’s team have already requested that Chutkan issue a gag order on Trump to block him from attacking prosecutors, potential witnesses and others involved in the case. Chutkan will hear arguments on that matter on Oct. 16.

  • In their new filing, prosecutors are seeking to keep Trump and his lawyers from following or making contact with potential jurors on social media.

Why it matters: In his post attacking Engoron’s clerk, Trump posted a picture of her along with false information about her relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to his 6 million followers on Truth Social. Keeping the prospective jurors anonymous in the case would deprive Trump of the opportunity to call their motives into question.

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Monday, Oct. 9

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Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Scott Olson/Getty Images, Getty Images (4).

Photo Illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Scott Olson/Getty Images, Getty Images (4).

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team submits a filing saying former President Donald Trump’s lawyers used “distorted and exaggerated” claims in their motion to delay the classified documents trial until after the 2024 election. In Trump’s financial fraud civil trial, debate continues to rage over a tax appraiser’s valuation of Mar-a-Lago.

Classified documents

DOJ prosecutors: ‘No reason’ to delay Trump documents case

Key players: Special counsel Jack Smith, Judge Aileen Cannon, Trump lawyer Christopher Kise

  • In a court filing submitted Monday, Department of Justice lawyers told Cannon that Trump’s lawyers had made “distorted and exaggerated” claims in their request to delay the start of the classified documents trial until after the 2024 presidential election, CBS News reported.

  • “Their unfounded claims of Government noncompliance with discovery obligations do not support their request,” prosecutors in Smith’s office wrote.

  • In a filing last week, Kise argued that the trial’s May 20 start date should be moved back because lawyers had not been able to review all of the classified documents at issue.

  • On Friday, Cannon paused the deadlines for the review of classified documents in the case, potentially pushing the trial schedule back. She has yet to rule on whether to reschedule opening arguments.

  • Kise, who was hired by Trump in late August, has yet to receive the security clearance required to view 32 of the sensitive classified documents in the case, but prosecution lawyers noted in their filing Monday that four Trump lawyers and one legal analyst for the defense had already received clearances.

Why it matters: If Cannon grants a delay in the start of the trial, that would free up Trump to continue his presidential campaign rather than sit in court on 32 felony counts of willfully retaining defense information in violation of the Espionage Act and eight counts of obstructing the efforts to recover classified documents.

Financial fraud

How much is Mar-a-Lago worth, exactly?

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump lawyer Alina Habba

  • A contentious issue in the civil trial to determine the penalties Trump, his adult sons and his family business must pay for overinflating the value of their assets is the value of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club, the Associated Press reported Monday.

  • Engoron relied upon a valuation done by the Palm Beach County tax appraiser’s office, which put the amount between $18 and $37 million for the club Trump purchased in 1985 for $10 million.

  • In court, Habba has repeated Trump’s claim that the property would sell for $1 billion or more if put on the market, earning a rebuke for Engoron.

  • Real estate professionals told the AP that the actual value is likely between $300 million and $600 million.

  • A private club, Mar-a-Lago charges a $500,000 initiation fee for members and annual dues of $20,000.

  • Mar-a-Lago’s tax bill is $602,000 this year, according to records, and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from Florida, is asking officials in Palm Beach County to examine Trump’s claim that the property should be valued at $1 billion, which would result in much higher annual property taxes.

Why it matters: Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are guilty of having inflated their assets. But the punishment in the $250 million suit brought by James will depend on an understanding of the amount Trump benefited from doing so.

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